Today was a good one, but one that saw me getting far more emotional than I intended to. As I mentioned previously, for the next week I've negotiated my way into teaching sort of final "goodbye" classes to my third graders before they go off to high school. We're mostly just fooling around, hanging out and talking, since their exams finished ages ago and all they've been doing for the last two weeks is watching movies during school hours, while the third grade teachers rush around the office trying to get their high school apps in on time. The co-teachers are busy (obviously) and I've told them that there's no way I need any help with these boys, so it's just me and them.
When it got close to time for the bell in both classes this morning, I asked them to all sit down and listen for a minute. I told them they were my first students who I would see leave for high school, and that I was a lot more sad than I expected to be, and I thanked them for giving me one last class with them -- told them that they have made Korea like a home for me. And I meant that. I told them they better come back and visit me next year, and that I wished them all the best for the future. When I finished, I said, well that's it guys -- the end of our last class. STAND UP PUSH IN YOUR CHAIRS PICK UP THE TRASH CLEAN OFF THE TABLES GOODBYE HAVE A GOOD DAY!
Instead of stampeding out with a chorus of "Bye Teacher!"s like they normally do, they solemnly started to form a line in front of me. Each one shook my hand and bowed before leaving the room. I think I got to about the tenth student in each class before I started to cry. I can believe I have to go through this twelve more times. There were at least three students in each class who broke the tension every now and then by refusing to let go of my hand. And then there were the ones to whom I've taught my super cool secret handshake. God. I don't know how the homeroom teachers go through this every year with students they've spent a hell of a lot more time with than 45 minutes every couple of weeks. And I can't imagine how bad it's going to be to say goodbye to my first graders, after potentially spending three years with them (if I end up at the same school again next year).
My heart literally aches today, but is also full of so much joy, thinking about how clammed up those boys were when I first met them. We catch a lot of guff at times, being foreigners in the ROK, with sensationalist media and occasional bone-headed individuals at large who can't suffer differences. But these boys, my third graders, I know will go out into the world with an open mind about foreigners. They've gotten to know me and they know that I'm not weird or incapable or operating on a different set of moral standards. They also know that I'm not special or superior in anyway. I'm nothing to be scared of or nervous or wary about. I'm also nothing to be impressed with. I'm not that different from them at all.
And now, the glorious weekend begins. Last night was lovely -- met JH out for dinner, then coffee, then drinks. Then we chatted on the phone when we got home, even though we both really needed to be getting to sleep. By the way, no I haven't gone and betrayed myself and all I stand for and fallen into an insta-Mc-lationship -- JH is a girl, remember? A straight girl. Ahem.
I've been without the female partner-in-crime aspect for way, way too long. So maybe we're rushing into this. Oh well? Anyway, I've finally got solid plans for Christmas. Well, not Christmas but the day after. Some kind of crazy sounding party in a tent by the Han River. With mid-to-late-twenties, real-job-having grownup types. Strange. One of JH's friends works for some big .... something... promotional... advertising... I don't know. All those real jobs sound the same to me. Anyway, he's someone somewhat important. And his company is throwing the party, and he's in charge. So that should be pretty cool. It sort of feels like that time I accidentally scored a hot date to a classical music performance in Manhattan and ended up at a penthouse party afterward. I think I might actually have to think about what to wear.
Which is why it's lucky me and Willie are apparently going shopping in Dongdaemun tomorrow for grownup clothes. Hopefully I can find something that will fit over my behemoth American shoulders.
And just because I've been in such a great mood lately, and to celebrate the fact that I have absolutely no plans to drag my sad ass out to the local to talk to perverts and hit on a bartender who's two years older than me and seems about 19, I stopped at the shops before coming home today and did the kind of shopping I haven't had the time or energy to do for ages. Like, the kind of shopping that involves actual cooking eventually. I'm going to have a cozy weekend with myself. Fuck this cold weather shit. And it will start with a cup of freshly brewed coffee, Christmasy smelling candles, 찰떡 I got as a present this week from some students, and a replay of the best episodes of "Secret Diary of a Call Girl". What? Leave me alone.
PS -- Chocolate milk in the coffee. I started this at breakfast in the hostel when I was in Paris. Why did I not bring that back with me and forgot about it until today?